The Rugby Championship
All Blacks would be 'foolish' to ignore SBW
ESPN Staff
July 30, 2012
New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams stampedes over Ireland, New Zealand v Ireland, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, New Zealand, June 23, 2012
Sonny Bill Williams stampedes through the Ireland defence during their recent Test series © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Steve Hansen | Sonny Bill Williams
Tournaments/Tours: Rugby Championship
Teams: New Zealand

Sonny Bill Williams is set to be handed an All Blacks farewell after coach Steve Hansen revealed he would be 'foolish' to ignore the Japan-bound centre.

Williams announced earlier this month that he will leave New Zealand at the end of the Super Rugby season in favour of a move to Japanese side the Wild Knights with a return to rugby league reportedly in the pipeline in 2013.

His decision was expected to curtail his international career due to the fact he will be unavailable for the bulk of the Rugby Championship and also the end of year tour of Europe but Hansen looks poised to select the in-form 26-year-old for the back-to-back clashes with Australia in Sydney then Auckland next month.

"Our role is to go out there, pick the best we can, play the best rugby we can. Sonny's available, so it's just a no-brainer," said Hansen. "We're interested in using Sonny for a couple of weeks while he's still contracted to New Zealand, particularly if Panasonic [Wild Knights] are going to come to the party and support us which looks like they're going to, so we'd be foolish not to use him."

Williams hopes of adding to his 17-Test cap haul were boosted when Hurricanes centre Conrad Smith was ruled out for several weeks with an eye injury. Fellow veteran Ma'a Nonu and the Highlanders' Tamati Ellison are also in the mix and Hansen is not concerned by a perceived lack of depth.

"There's a lot of talk about Ben Smith coming into centre from you people in the media, so we'd be foolish not to take notice of that and try it," added Hansen.

Williams will miss the All Blacks' training camp this week as he prepares for the Chiefs' Super Rugby final clash with the Sharks in Hamilton on Saturday. Tournament officials have also confirmed that Kiwi-born referee Steve Walsh will take charge of the title-decider.

"Steve thoroughly deserves this appointment to the Final, having been arguably our most consistent performer in the middle, throughout this competition," SANZAR game manager Lyndon Bray said of the now Australia-based Walsh's appointment. "Steve is in great form and he will contribute to what should be an outstanding Final."

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